Rivals visit Park’s birthplace for unity

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Rivals visit Park’s birthplace for unity

In a bid for better regional understanding in Korea, a group of lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party who come from North Gyeongsang and a group from the opposition Democratic Party who come from South Jeolla yesterday visited the birthplace of former President Park Chung Hee.

It was the first time that opposition lawmakers from South Jeolla made a group visit to Park’s birth house, located in Gumi, North Gyeongsang.

The gathering, named “Dongseo (east-west) harmony forum,” was created late last year by two dozen lawmakers in an attempt to overcome the regional divide in Korean society.

Korean politics has long been divided by region, dating back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The Gyeongsang region, also called Yeongnam, comprises the southeastern portion of the peninsula, while the Jeolla provinces, also called Honam, comprise the southwest.

President Park Geun-hye, the daughter of Park Chung Hee, was born in Daegu, North Gyeongsang, in 1952 and a number of ministers, high-ranking government officials and leading business moguls are also from Gyeongsang.

The hometowns of her two immediate predecessors - Lee Myung-bak and Roh Moo-hyun - are also located in the region.

“To resolve the ongoing confrontation in the political scene and deepening conflict, lawmakers from South Jeolla and North Gyeongsang, the strongholds of the two parties, have made this attempt,” said Representative Lee Cheol-woo of the Saenuri Party and assistant administrator for the forum. “We decided to visit the [Park Chung Hee] birthplace to stir changes within the two regions and to resolve conflict and initiate reconciliation by the two parties.”

The trip to Park’s birth home follows the forum’s first excursion in January, when they visited the birthplace of former President Kim Dae-jung, who was born in 1926 in Sinan, South Jeolla.

“We have now visited the birthplaces of former President Kim Dae-jung, the symbol of democratization, and Park Chung Hee, the symbol of industrialization,” said Representative Lee Yoon-seok of the Democratic Party. “This occasion [today] is to lay a cornerstone for unification.”

Some 20 lawmakers, including Saenuri floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan and the DP’s former floor leader Park Jie-won, looked around a memorial hall that commemorates the former president who was born in 1917. They also planted a tree and unveiled a memorial stone.

They later dined together with the North Gyeongsang governor and the superintendent of education for the region. The Dongseo harmony forum plans to continue alternating visits to Jeolla and Gyeongsang in the future.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongnang.co.kr]

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